We’re Getting More Godless with Each Generation

Want a terrific primer on how the number of atheists is going up with each generation?

Adam Lee writes about it at AlterNet:

All these individual facts add up to a larger picture, which is confirmed by statistical evidence: Americans are becoming less religious, with rates of atheism and secularism increasing in each new generation. This demographic transformation has been in progress ever since World War II, but in recent years it’s begun to seriously pick up steam. In the generation born since 1982, variously referred to as Generation Y, the Millennials, or Generation Next, one in five people identify as nonreligious, atheist, or agnostic. In the youngest cohort, the trend is even more dramatic: as many as 30% of those born since 1990 are nonbelievers. Another study, this one by a Christian polling firm, found that people are leaving Christianity at four times the rate that new members are joining.

Adam also draws attention to how some of those young atheists are also becoming public activists, despite the problems that come along with that. Those young atheists are heroes to me and I have no doubt they’re only serve to increase our visibility as a whole.

Jerry Coyne adds:

… we [can] accelerate the trend by standing up and speaking out. As I’ve found myself, the more one points out the dangers and irrationality of faith, the more encouragement it gives others to “come out.”

(via Why Evolution Is True)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • Smithcry12

    YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jim-Charlotte/100001257871259 Jim Charlotte

    Have we finally found the source of that “30 under 30″ claim?

    • Anonymous

      Although, apparently, the claim was not quite accurate, at least if this were the source. From the summary, it looks more like it’s both “20 under 30″ (1 in 5 of people born since 1982) and “30 under 20″  (as many as 30% of those born since 1990) but not quite “30 under 30″.

    • Anonymous

      Although, apparently, the claim was not quite accurate, at least if this were the source. From the summary, it looks more like it’s both “20 under 30″ (1 in 5 of people born since 1982) and “30 under 20″  (as many as 30% of those born since 1990) but not quite “30 under 30″.

  • Anonymous

    The kids are alright.

  • http://twitter.com/TominousTone Tom Lawson

    I guess we can thank the GOP and their corporate cronies for shipping all the jobs overseas.

    Now the young people have plenty of free time to become activists and get the word out.

  • Halley

    I’ve been trying for almost an hour to find anything that says that 30% of people who were born after 1990 are nonbelievers, but this has been a fruitless quest. Does anyone have any information that could help me? If so please put it in the comments, I’ll be checking regularly.

    • http://www.frommormontoatheist.blogspot.com Leia

      http://www.americanreligionsurvey-aris.org/reports/NONES_08.pdf

      It’s a three year old study. But Section A states that 30 are under 30 and Figure 1.2 looks to ‘prove’ that people age 18-29 who classify as ‘nones’ equal 30%.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Arthur-Bryne/100002441143047 Arthur Bryne

      There are studies from both ARIS (noted by Leia) and Pew which suggests that as an extrapolation of the current trend — though technically, “unaffiliated” rather than “nonbelievers”. (See the Pew Forum research.)

       There’s a similar trend in the General Social Survey data (eg, RELIG against COHORT grouped by decade), but the 1991-1992 cohort from the 2010 GSS is an outlier. This may be due to sampling anomaly (qualified N is under 50), but I suspect there are two other factors. First, the current economic environment increases social stress, which increases expression of authoritarian follower tendency, which correlates to conventional religiosity (see the work by Karen Stenner and by Robert Altemeyer).  Second, 18 and 19 year olds (1991-1992 in 2010) are usually still on their parent’s apron strings at least for tuition; while many do change religious identification away from their parents’, that independence may not have finished developing.

      That said, the trend shown by GSS data looks like a logistic curve; floor circa 0%, ceiling circa 90%, time constant circa 27 years, and midpoint circa 2007.

      If you’d like to play with the GSS data yourself, there’s an on-line tool at Berkeley’s SDA website.

  • Anonymous

    Holy hell, That’s AHA!’s own Tanner B. top, 2nd picture from the left. 

  • Sinfanti

    I’m waiting for the statistic that 100% of young people under the age of 1 are non-believers.

  • Anonymous

    good point

  • gsw

    I still think the process could be accelerated by coming up with a sensible, non-negative word. A-theist; non-believer; un-superstitious, a positive  name – rather like the humanists have.     

    Not brights (shudder), and please not secularist – since a secularist can still be a god-worshipper.

    I’ve come up blank – any suggestions?

    • http://textsonrevolution.wordpress.com Texts On Revolution

      I propose Vitalists, since we believe in Life (in latin ‘Vita’); furthermore, we believe in THIS life and not any other imaginary life. 

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Arthur-Bryne/100002441143047 Arthur Bryne

        REALLY bad choice; the term “vitalism” already has a usage in philosophy, and it’s pretty much antithetical.

    • Grisha

      Freethinker – it was around for awhile.

  • Anonymous

    The guy on the bottom left is definately going for the Hemant® smile.

  • Anonymous

    Good.  It would be interesting to see how many people are “functionally atheist” too.  That is those who may claim a religion or a vague deist belief but don’t pray, attend church or go through any of the traditional religious rituals.  In the UK only 15% of people attend church at least once a month making us 85% functionally atheist.   SOURCE

  • Ted Snyder

    I don’t mean to burst anyone’s bubble, but atheism is a religion. You have failed to seek the definition of what you claim to believe. A Christian believes in God and Jesus, by the worlds standard, nothing more than an opinion. You to choose to deny God and Jesus so having an opinion, you are also religious. I do have a question, why is the atheist driven to deny something, by their own admission, that does not exist. I have better things to do than to go around denying what does not exist, what you consider as nonsense. It’s like light and darkness, light is a physical thing therefore it exists, darkness has no source, it is merely  the absence of light.

    • Anonymous

      Apologies for all those who can resist feeding the troll.
      Ted.  You are wrong.re·li·gionNoun1. The belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, esp. a personal God or gods.
      2. Details of belief as taught or discussed.
      “why is the atheist driven to deny something, by their own admission, that does not exist. “You fail to grasp what atheism is.  Atheism is a lack of belief in gods.  Some atheists actively deny the existence of gods, some simply don’t believe in them.  The distinction is important.  We don’t so much spend our time denying the existence of gods (not just the one you prefer) as shake our heads in consternation as the the harm that religion does.   This worship of some being that we have no evidence for and no reason to believe exists is plainly eccentric.  Harming others by denying them rights or education for example is wicked. “I have better things to do than to go around denying what does not exist, what you consider as nonsense.” Shall we test that theory.  Who is it that is on an atheist web site attempting to decry the atheists lack of belief in gods.  A position that you must surely consider to be nonsense if you are a believer.  maybe you don’t have anything better to do after all.”It’s like light and darkness, light is a physical thing therefore it exists”Really?  How much does light weigh?  What are the physical properties of light?


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